Preston farmers can raise issues, concerns at forum

Preston - The Conservation Commission is inviting all Preston farmers "whether you farm 1 acre or 100" to a forum March 16 to discuss state farm preservation programs and other issues facing local farmers.

The forum, the second to be hosted by the commission in the past few years, will be held at 1 p.m. at the Preston City Congregational Church at routes 164 and 165. The event includes a light lunch and door prizes.

The commission is continuing to explore ways to maintain and expand Preston's agricultural heritage, and seeks input from farmers. In 2012, the commission successfully proposed that the town create a tax break for farmers that was approved by voters in December 2012. The measure allows farmers to receive a property tax exemption for buildings assessed for up to $21,000 and used exclusively for farming.

At Sunday's forum, a representative from the Connecticut Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Preservation will speak on the Connecticut Farmland Preservation Program. And Elizabeth Moore from the Connecticut Farmland Trust will speak on other strategies for farmland preservation.

Conservation Commission Chairman Gary Piszczek said he sent the notice of the forum to farmers on the commission's mailing list, and he also hopes members of town boards and commissions attend the forum.

"We're hoping people from the zoning board and other commissions come too," Piszczek said. "What they do affects the farmers, and what the farmers do affects the town."

Preston has five working dairy farms, plus several other types of farms, including vegetable growers, cash crop growers, two vineyards and Christmas tree farms.

Piszczek said after the speakers discuss farm preservation programs, the forum will be open for discussion and questions by participants - "a neighborly get-together."

Door prizes will feature items donated by agricultural businesses, such as hats, clothing and rain gauges.

c.bessette@theday.com

If you go

What: Preston Farm Forum

When Sunday, March 16, 1 p.m.

Where: Preston City Congregational Church, junction of routes 164 and 165.

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